On Friday, I was putting together the story running in this week’s paper about Memorial Day parades, and I couldn’t help but flash back to being probably 8 or 9 years old in Fairview Park. The Memorial Day parade was THE BEST.
Why? First of all, it officially ushered in summer. School was over and the entire summer filled with bicycle riding, playing in the Valley (a true native calls the Metroparks the Valley, as we all know) and roller skating stretched in front of me and my neighborhood gang like an open-book adventure.
Boy, did we fill those days. Every morning, before my parents were even awake — I was the youngest of six. They were exhausted by the time I hit my childhood stride — I would gallop out the front door of our colonial on Parklane Drive and head to Mary Jo’s brick bungalow house across the street. We had this system where we would stand in front of the house and holler “OOOOHHHH (fill in the name).”
“OOOOOOHHHHH MARY JO!” I would bellow. If she was awake, she would burst out the screen door.
We skipped down the bumpity, uneven sidewalk to the green house second from the end.
“OOOOOOOHHHH LUANN!” She was usually asleep. Onward we’d skip.
“OOOOOOOHHHHH MARY JOY!” She would come out of the small cape cod house and join us. (Luann would usually show up mid-morning.)
Every summer, at least once, we would have “a show” for our parents. Mary Joy, who took dancing lessons, always did an elaborate and very good tap dance routine. I would put on roller skates and pretend to be a gliding ballerina. Mary Jo was usually my fellow dancer. Luann sang.
I still remember cleaning up Mary Joy’s garage (it had the smoothest floor) and setting up chairs for our parents. I’m hoping they liked it. I don’t remember their reactions, frankly. I just remember performing.
Roller skating down the “medical building hill” was another adventure. The building still stands at the corner of West 210th Street and Lorain Road. The hill that I thought was so high doesn’t seem very intimidating now. But I must say, it does bottom out at a very busy street. Why were we allowed to do that? I once had some plastic roller skates that actually melted when I went down the hill without stopping. The friction killed the skates.
We spent hours in the Valley, thanks to a neighbor at the end of the street who allowed us to cut through her back yard to get into the woods. We were all alone, with rope swings, sticks and a sense of adventure. No adults. As a parent, I never once allowed my children to go into the Valley alone. No way.
But the summers always started with the Memorial Day parade. We spent hours with multi-colored crepe paper, decorating the handlebars and and weaving the streamers through the spokes. My gold Huffy never looked better. The decorated bicycles always brought up the back of the parade that traveled from Fairview Park City Hall (near my house), all the way down Lorain Road to the Fairview Park cemetery.
I haven’t seen the parade for years, so I don’t know if they still include decorated bikes. I hope so. It was the stuff of memories. And summer.
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